Facing the transition out of full-time motherhood, my friend and I made a pact to defy the bored housewife stereotype. But after a day of shopping and hanging out at the coffee shop, I sent her a confessional text: “Maybe I am a Stepford wife after all.” I needed only to play a round of golf at the country club and preside over a Junior League meeting to round out the caricature.
Of course my text was tongue-in-cheek. My friend and I don’t really fear becoming sterotypical housewives, but we do fear foregoing the important things in life in pursuit of the inconsequential. As the daily responsibilities of motherhood are ending, we’re determined our middle and later years will matter far beyond new clothes and great coffee.
The Scriptures teach that older women play vital roles. In Titus 2:3–4, Paul encourages older women to “teach what is good . . . and so train the young women.” Older women can be tremendously influential among the next generation of women.
But as an older woman—no matter how much I may resent that designation—I find Paul’s instruction intimidating. Who am I to presume authority or wisdom? My “seasoned experience” is fraught with mistakes, confusion, and general winging it. Surely mentoring or teaching or whatever Paul had in mind would be best accomplished by someone—anyone—else.
Women Need Women
Perhaps you feel the same lack of qualification. Perhaps, like me, you’ve been intimidated by what you think mentoring ought to be. Maybe you think your mistakes rule out the wisdom you could offer. Yet Paul’s exhortation is clear: women need women. Older or younger, regardless of how we define our stage of life, we need each other.
We need each other to model lives of grace and holiness. We need each other to speak truth with the voice of understanding and experience. We need each other to display the beauty of repentance and redemption. Our past mistakes and confusion don’t qualify us to proclaim ourselves, but Christ and his glorious grace.
But where to begin? Look to the women already in your life and within the spheres of influence the Lord has granted you. The Bible tells us God has ordained the times and places in which we live; surely part of his sovereign provision is whom he’s placed in your life. As you think of the women in your church or at your work or in your neighborhood, how can you serve and encourage them?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Be a friend.
I could say “be a mentor,” but “mentoring” can sound too formal and scary. At any rate, mentoring begins with intentional friendship. With whom can you initiate fellowship? Maybe you can invite a younger woman into your home and into your life, mess and all. Perhaps you could take lunch to a young stay-at-home mom or offer to watch the babies so she can get out of the house for an hour or two.
Serve in the church nursery or teach a Vacation Bible School class or coach a soccer team. At the crisis pregnancy center where I volunteer, we welcome people who have all sorts of gifts to offer, everything from counseling to sorting diapers and clothes. Where can you give your time and befriend women as you serve others?
Women need the example of other women correctly and passionately handling God’s Word. The deep things of the Lord gained through diligent study are for women, too! Women who teach are a critical element of kingdom life.
I know teaching can be intimidating. Yes, there are teachers more skilled and more knowledgeable. But before you reach for that Bible study DVD, or ignore my plea altogether, let me encourage you: The Spirit equips and qualifies. Your teaching ministry can begin as simply and effectively as getting together with a group of friends (older and younger) to read a book of the Bible together. Additionally, there are many excellent resources written for and by women, such as the study guides by Kathleen Nielson, Nancy Guthrie, and Keri Folmar, to name a few.
There’s a void of women writing from the middle and later years, for reasons both varied and complicated—no doubt because life as an older woman is itself varied and complicated. Be it aging parents or rebellious teens or emptying nests, not everything we experience should be shared. But some can be. Start a blog, submit an article, or tweet your observations about life and gospel and kingdom. Tell your story. Your perspective is vital.
Dear older woman, your sisters need you. Let’s resolve together to avoid becoming caricatures as we intentionally invest our lives in befriending, serving, teaching, and writing. We can make these middle and later years matter for eternity by pouring into the women God has sovereignly placed in our lives.